Lower Boardman River Revitalization

Client Organization: 
City of Traverse City, Michigan
Project Location : 
Traverse City, MI
Summary of Project Idea: 

The Boardman River, which flows through the city of Traverse City before emptying into West Grand Traverse Bay, offers incredible potential for providing new social, cultural and environmental amenities.  Currently, the river is relatively invisitble within the fabric of the city; surrounded by parking lots and alleyways, the river faces or will likely face ecological issues having to do with erosion, invasive species management, and increased sedimentation and flow variation as a result of dam removal upstream.  This project proposes a new vision for the Boardman River - one that integrates the river into the city fabric and encourages recreation and community building, bringing a dynamic outdoor space to Traverse City's core.

Traverse City has grown up on the banks of the Boardman River but has not adequately integrated the river into the city itself.  This has created a downtown experience that is disconnected from the river corridor, and a river corridor that has been channelized, neglected, and largely hidden between alleyways and parking lots.  Currently, the Boardman River is not realizing its potential as a unifying element to the downtown experience, and is facing ecological issues related to erosion, invasive species and sedimentation.  There is no unifying vision for the river's future, leading to a disjointed approach to river redevelopment and improvement.

This project will strive to create a Master Plan for the Boardman River that will provide the city of Traverse City with a comprehensive vision for the river's future.  The plan will focus on enhancing the river's ecological health while creating new social and cultural spaces centered on the river and anchored in the historical and cultural context of Traverse City.  By examining the river corridor at multiple scales, the resulting plan both focuses down into specific neighborhood-based elements in the riverwalk, as well as connecting these proposed interventions in a cohesive whole.  While offering opportunities for enhancing ecological health, the redesign of the riverfront also offers opportunities for the city to create social spaces, recreational areas and outdoor amenities in the heart of the downtown district.  Reorienting Traverse City's streetscape and landscape toward the river is consistent with the city's history as a city founded on the banks of the Boardman.  Providing the City with creative solutions for refocusing on the river will provide the tools necessary for approaching future development in a cohesive, comprehensive and innovative way.

SEAS Program Areas: 
Landscape Architecture
SEAS Faculty Advisor: 
Chet Hill
Master Students Involved in Project: 
  • Catherine Dennis, MLA, Landscape Architecture
  • Aaron Fargo, MLA, Landscape Architecture
  • Christina Strasser, Landscape Architecture
  • Adam Fercho, MLA, Landscape Architecture
Project Status: 
Past Project